Jason Kidd trade

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Posted: Feb. 19, 2008

Jason Kidd returns to the Mavericks with the singular focus that drove the latest trade to shake the NBA. It’s all about a title.

“That’s all I want – to win a championship,” Kidd said Tuesday shortly after arriving in Dallas. “It’s not guaranteed, but you want to play for it. When you take the floor with the Mavericks, you’re on that path to win a championship.”

You knew the trade was coming. You just didn’t know how it was going to get there. Just like one of his trademark passes, the Kidd trade was delivered in unexpected fashion.

The eight-time All-Star point guard returns to the franchise of his NBA birth after the eight-player deal with New Jersey was finally consummated Tuesday morning. After six days of twists and turns, the Mavs dealt Devin Harris, Gana Diop, Trenton Hassell, Moe Ager, Keith Van Horn, a pair of draft picks and cash to acquire Kidd, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright from New Jersey.

The Mavs re-signed Van Horn, who hasn’t played since the 2006 Finals, to make the deal work financially. To make room for Van Horn, rookie forward Nick Fazekas was waived.

“This is hands down the most unique transaction that I’ve ever been involved in,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “Ever.”

Added owner Mark Cuban: “It’s been the most amazing, interesting trade we’ve ever done, and we’ve done some doozies.”

The Kidd deal is the latest in a series of blockbusters that reshaped the stout Western Conference. The Lakers were the first to strike, acquiring Pau Gasol from Memphis. Phoenix followed suit with a high-risk, high-reward swap of Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal.

“We don’t have a big window in our minds with this team,” coach Avery Johnson said. “Just like San Antonio and Phoenix and the Lakers and Houston, lots of teams on down the line, it’s a short window. Some teams younger may have a bigger window, but we’ve just have a small window.”

Johnson said Kidd will help close games and the series strong, and, hopefully, playoff series. Johnson also looks forward to sharing a point guard-coach relationship like the one he enjoyed with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

The Spurs won their first title with the fiery Johnson running the show. Dirk Nowitzki feels Kidd adds similar intangibles and, if the Mavs are going to scale those heights, the time was right for a change.

“The window is now,” Nowitzki said. “If it doesn’t happen this year, we can look at another window maybe next year. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. Our chance is now to be a great team and go all the way, and that’s the move we needed to make.”

The Mavs have insisted that those deals didn’t pressure a response. The addition of Kidd fortifies the point guard position and adds a top-flight distributor to pair with Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry. Kidd, Allen and Wright will be in uniform when the Mavs (35-18) resume the season Wednesday at Southwest Division-leading New Orleans.

“Plain and simple, this gives us the best chance to win a championship,” said Nelson, adding that the talks began before the other trades were announced. “That’s really what it comes down to. It wasn’t based on anything else or what other people were doing. It was the right time to make a move based on the internal needs of our team.”

The Mavs haven’t had an All-Star caliber point guard since Steve Nash. Harris, 24, was in the midst of a career-best season (14.4 points and 5.3 assists) before injuring his left ankle in late January, but Kidd presented a chance to get a potential Hall-of-Famer.

“He’s an experienced quarterback,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “He’s been through a lot of big games, he’s been through a lot of playoff games, he’s strong, he’s durable, he’s big and he has a high basketball IQ.”

Kidd, 34, is averaging 11.3 points, 10.4 assists (third in the league) and 8.1 rebounds this season. He’s a member of Team USA and widely considered one of the best all-time at his position.

“Mentally and physically I feel that I can do the things I did when I first came into the league,” said Kidd, who will wear No. 2. “People may feel that I’ve lost a step, you have good days and bad days, but the biggest thing is just understanding my teammates.

“I’ve never had to score a lot of points for us to win. I always tried to make the game as easy as possible for my teammates to score. I’ve always been on a team with scorers, so they’ve been happy. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve understood to help the big guys rebound. I still love the challenge.”

Allen (6-10, 255) has played for four teams in his seven-year career. The Villanova product has averaged 5.9 points and 3.2 rebounds during that span. Texas A&M product Wright (6-7, 215) adds another swingman to the rotation with Hassell’s departure, and is averaging 7.3 points in 41 games this season.

“Plain and simple, this gives us the best chance to win a championship,” Nelson said. “That’s really what it comes down to. It wasn’t based on anything else or what other people were doing. It was the right time to make a move based on the internal needs of our team.”

Diop (7-0, 280) spent his 2 ½ seasons with the Mavs as part of the center tandem with Erick Dampier. Hassell, a veteran shooting guard acquired during training camp from Minnesota, has played sparingly in his first season in Dallas. Ager, a second-year guard, has shuttled between the Mavs and the NBDL.

“We owe an incredible debt to all players that we’re losing,” Nelson said. “They were a huge part of our success. Devin is going to be a star in the future. There is no question about it. We’re going to miss Gana, too. This is the toughest part of our business. Those are two young guys with extremely bright futures. We wish them nothing but the best. Mavs fans and family owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

Kidd concluded his run with New Jersey by representing the Nets on the Eastern Conference team in Sunday’s All-Star Game. Besides his obvious on-court gifts, Kidd’s mental toughness and leadership are qualities coveted by the Mavs front office. He has 99 career triple-doubles, the third most in NBA history.

Kidd was drafted by the Mavs with the second overall pick in 1994. He split Rookie of the Year honors with Grant Hill, but his stay in Dallas was short. Kidd was traded to Phoenix the day after Christmas in 1996 for Michael Finley, Sam Cassell and A.C. Green. The Suns dealt him to New Jersey in the 2001 offseason. He led the Nets to the Finals in 2002 and ’03.

He can’t wait to get back and finish the job.

“It’s been a successful career,” Kidd said. “Everybody feels that they are measured by championships, and you are, and I’ve been to the Big Dance twice, so I’ve had that opportunity and that’s the best feeling.

“There are 30 teams and only two teams at the end of the day. There is no bigger stage than that. To be able to do that is great. Unfortunately, there is only one winner. Nothing is promised, but when you have other guys on your team that are in the same fight, it makes coming to work a lot easier.”